“Hello, my name is Stephen Hawking.”
Every time I hear that robotic voice tone, it puts a smile right on my face.
Most people like myself — I am blind — depend on a speech program like Jaws for Windows, to help them use computers. When I turn on my computer, the first thing I hear is that same robotic voice. It says “Jaws for Windows is ready.”
JAWS (“Job Access With Speech”) is a computer screen reader program for Microsoft Windows that allows blind and visually impaired users to read the screen either with a text-to-speech output or by a refreshable Braille display.
Think about this — a blind guy like me can’t see sign language. Some folks, who can see me, can’t hear me. But I can hear the words from the “talking devices” they used.
Over the years, in classes at Washington State School for the Blind and in my Special Ed classes in public school, I communicated with people who have loss of hearing, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or other physical challenges, and were vocally handicapped. They depend on a special talking aid in order for them to communicate. I’ve noticed, and heard, people who were vocally impaired using that particular device.
So I was familiar with the voice that Stephen Hawking used when he “spoke.”
When he was diagnosed at 21, with ALS, Stephen Hawking was given two years to live. But he lived for 55 years.
I believe Steven Hawking’s use of the talking program probably made people aware of the technology. He gave people a voice, a way to communicate and be heard.
For Pink Floyd fans, on the song, Keep Talking, there was a sample of Hawking speaking with the talking aid.
In closing, I’d like to say… Rest in peace Stephen, may the light of God shine down upon you. May you be remembered for the great success you made for mathematics, scientists, and especially to let people hear what was in your head and help others do the same.
— By Nick Baker
Edmonds resident Nick Baker is a composer, songwriter, keyboardist and author of the children’s book “Turtle,” which describes his challenges overcoming childhood bullying.